Japan Day 7: Sampling Hida Specialties in Takayama

After a filling breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to Takayama for shopping in a historic market. At about 10 o’clock in the morning, our group stopped into a sake brewery for a tasting (we were confused about timing too, but the Japanese seem to have a more lax attitude towards alcohol in general; the store had lots of customers, even in the morning).

Other places we visited in the market were a shop selling honey and other honey-based goods (like delicious honey ice cream) and a place where one could buy nice chopsticks and have their name engraved on them. For lunch, we stopped in at Suzuya; a restaurant serving the local specialty of Hida beef (comparable to Kobe). After some appetizers of fried chicken and vegetables, we enjoyed beef with mushrooms, scallions, and miso sauce over rice. The beef was cooked right in front of us, and we had a pleasant chat with our guide over the lunch. This was easily my favorite meal so far.

After lunch, we spent more time driving through the stunning Japanese Alps. We passed through an 11 km-long tunnel on our way to visit a historic Japanese farmhouse. We took our shoes off and entered the house where a farmer told us about things like how gunpowder was made, how political prisoners in the days of samurai were held captive in the cold mountains, and he even performed an ancient Japanese song for us.

Afterwards, we visited a Washi paper factory. We watched a brief video detailing the way the craftsmen of Gokayama made this ornate paper with bleached bark fibers from sapling trees and even got a chance to make our own postcard-sized papers.

With our postcards in hand, we thanked the staff and left. We headed for Ainokura Gassho-zukuri Village. This little one-street town featured friendly farmers working in their rice paddies, thatched-roof cottages and a little Shinto shrine. This calm setting was a great place to end an interesting day.

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